Modernization in Turkey and Iran

Course Description: 

This course will analyze the various aspects of "modernization" in Iran and Turkey. The two nations are ideally suited for comparative analysis, since they were among the few Muslim countries that survived the era of European imperialism as independent states. Modernization, therefore, was largely the work of indigenous elites in both societies.  In the interwar period, national elites in Turkey and Iran were aware of the similarities between each other, and policies enacted in one country often affected the other.  Mustafa Kamal Ataturk in Turkey and Reza Shah Pahlavi in Iran tried to promote socio-economic modernization in their respective countries by emulating the West.  Resistance to their policies was inversely proportional to the size of the Westernized sectors of the population.  While Ataturk justified authoritarian rule as a temporary reprieve, foreseeing a period of tutelage after which Turkey would make a transition to full-fledged democracy, Reza Shah appears to have been unperturbed with the perpetuation of despotism.  After World War II the political trajectories of the two nations diverged. Turkey became a “military democracy,” while Iran was ruled first by an autocratic monarchy and then by an Islamic theocracy.  In recent years Turkey and Iran seem to be both converging and diverging.  On the one hand, the ideological underpinnings of military Kemalism and guardianship Islamism, respectively, are being increasingly debated and challenged in each country.  However, while Turkey is undergoing a process of marketization, democratization and de-militarization, the theocracy in Iran is being transformed into an increasingly militarized regime, with the Revolutionary Guards exerting increasing control over both the economy and polity.  We will conclude by assessing the prospects for the modification or ouster of the Islamic Republic in Iran and the consolidation of democracy in Turkey.